Sunday was an undoing that was long coming for Juventus. It had to happen at some point, as Inter won their game against SPAL to go back to the top of the Serie A. It wasn’t surprising, considering Juve’s slip-up was coming for a while now.
The Bianconeri have been ambling to wins in the past. The last few games saw them pick up close wins and picking up three points when they hardly deserved them. The draw against the Neroverdi saw another pattern unfold, as the side let a lead slip and went 2-1 down.
While Francesco Caputo’s goal was down to Matthijs de Ligt’s and Gigi Buffon’s errors, a lot more was wrong in the game. It has been wrong for a while now.
Maurizio Sarri set his side up in a 4-3-1-2 with Cristiano Ronaldo and Gonzalo Higuain up front. Federico Bernardeschi got another chance at number ten, with Paulo Dybala on the bench. La Joya though, made a huge difference once he came on.
The Juve attack looked sluggish as it ever has this season. It was a case of square pegs in round holes. Emre Can wasn’t impressive at all himself as the German missed a tap-in and couldn’t score another chance from close by. He got dribbled past once while also getting dispossessed once (via Whoscored).
Blaise Matuidi brought in a more reliable influence, not getting dribbled past or dispossessed even once in the second half (via Whoscored).
While this midfield balance has been an issue, it is about more than that. The narrow 4-3-1-2 shape isn’t one Sarri’s sides have played too often. It is usually a 4-3-3, but it does leave the full-backs exposed.
But Federico Bernardeschi came up with another drab show. The Italian showed, once again, that he isn’t doing enough to warrant a first-team place in that side. He never got involved in the game, playing only 17 accurate passes in total. He would play only one key pass.
What is shocking is that Dybala played more accurate passes in 35 minutes than Bernardeschi did in the 55 minutes- 22. He also played two key passes and showed exactly what Juve were missing in that area. He also won the penalty that Filippo Romagna gave away and Cristiano Ronaldo ended up scoring.
Bernardeschi is yet to score or assist in any of the 12 games Sarri has given him a start in. But he isn’t the only one who looks out of his depth.
Ronaldo himself never looked comfortable. He never has, in Sarri’s possession style of football.
A lot of what Sarri has done in his style has been to fit Ronaldo in. The natural shape- 4-3-3, has been given a skip to make sure that Ronaldo plays in front of goal. The pangs of age has made Ronaldo lose pace – something Zinedine Zidane saw at Real Madrid. This is why the Frenchman would switch to a 4-3-1-2 shape around the 2016-17 campaign.
Ronaldo would play alongside Karim Benzema and in front of Isco. It is a good way of getting Ronaldo play close to goal and it worked out too. But the system at Juve is different. There is more focus on possession under Sarri than it was under Zidane.
Against Sassuolo, Ronaldo would complete only 21 passes and winning two aerial duels (via Whoscored). He looked bereft of confidence and not at his best.
As things stand, Ronaldo’s last goal from open play came in early October in Juve’s 2-1 win over Bologna. That, in fact, was his last best game for the club. He completed 35 passes, completing 2 dribbles (via Whoscored). The goal was a rather deserved act.
It isn’t exactly his fault that the system doesn’t suit him. Ronaldo is now 34 and that isn’t the easiest age to adapt. At Real, he played in a pragmatic system and probably for the first time in his career, he’s playing in a system like Sarri’s. He might take longer than the others.
As things stand though, Juve have been playing better with Dybala in the forward areas. And Ronaldo and Bernardeschi aren’t doing enough to play regularly.